US Raises Alarm Over Reports that Houthi Court in Yemen May Deport Baha’is
MON, 10/14/2019 - 02:36
Photo: Hamid bin Haydara, the leader of Baha’i inYemen
WASHINGTON DC – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is alarmed over reports that a Houthi court in Yemen may deport and confiscate the assets of its Baha’i citizens. A Houthi judge has called for an appraisal of the Baha’i community’s assets ahead of an October 15 court hearing for its leader, Hamid bin Haydara, who was adopted in 2018 by USCIRF Commissioner Andy Khawaja as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoner of Conscience Project.
“I am deeply troubled over reports that the Houthis may deport members of the Baha’i community in Yemen,” said Commissioner Khawaja. “Congress and the administration must sound the alarm over the ruthless targeting of this peaceful religious community.”
Houthi forces arrested 60 Baha’is at a festival in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a in 2016. In 2017, they issued arrest warrants for 25 Baha’is on the basis of their religious beliefs. Six Baha’is continue to be detained in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a. Among the detainees is Baha’i community leader Hamid bin Haydara, whose death sentence an appeals court affirmed on September 17, 2019. According to UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Ahmed Shaheed, these trials demonstrate the Houthis’ systematic targeting of members of the Baha’i community, a pattern linked to Iranian influence.
“Iran is not content to contain its cowardly persecution of religious minorities within its own borders,” said USCIRF Chair Tony Perkins. “Iran must immediately cease its exportation of religious intolerance to Yemen and the Houthis must end their persecution of Baha’is, immediately drop all charges against members of that community, and set free Baha’is who have been unjustly imprisoned.”
Houthi authorities arrested Hamid bin Haydara in 2013 and charged him with spying for Israel, trying to create a Baha’i homeland in Yemen, teaching ideas that are incompatible with Islam, and attempting to convert Muslims. Houthis have also targeted the Baha’i community in Yemen as a whole. For example, in September 2019, a Houthi prosecutor asked an appeals court to affirm a lower court’s decision to “immediately deport” Baha’is from Yemen, ban their re-entry, and restrict them from expressing their religious beliefs. USCIRF recommended the Houthis as an entity of particular concern (EPC) in its 2019 Annual Report.